This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice

Bus workers prepare to fight privatisation plans

As we go to press a strike ballot of National Bus and Rail Union is underway. There are high hopes among rank and file members that a serious approach will be taken by the leadership in demonstrating opposition to the creeping competition and eventual break up of CIE.

By Michael O'Brien

The workers are being prepared for a one-day strike with the promise of further escalations until the government backs down. Lessons have to be learned from the scandalous way the SIPTU leadership pulled the strike action scheduled for 18 March for its members in Aer Rianta and CIE and the impact it has had on the mood of the workers.

At this stage the dominant view of SIPTU Dublin Bus members, is that the union leadership have, in secret, accepted the principle of competition and are just fighting for sweeteners for the existing workforce. The recent no strike deal SIPTU have signed with Connex in return for being allowed to organize the Luas drivers is another reminder of the bureaucracy's rottenness.

Over the last year licenses for 1,000 profitable bus routes have been granted to private operators by the Department of Transport, nearly all of which are in direct competition with Bus Eireann or Dublin Bus. Despite having to carry "loss making" routes both state companies recorded a profit. The private operators are all low paying and non-union and are not subjected to the same rigors in terms of rest time for drivers and other health and safety regulations.

Under Brennan's watch the Department of Transport are working hard to undermine the state companies to prepare the ground for opening up 25% of all Dublin Bus routes to competition.

The recent election results demonstrate that the workers in CIE are dealing with a weakened government. Nervous Fianna Fail TDs rightly interpret the result as a verdict by the voters on their privatisation agenda amongst other issues.

A determined public transport wide campaign for defending services and working conditions backed up by strike action and led by rank and file NBRU and SIPTU members can split this government open and derail Brennan's agenda.

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